ITHACA, N.Y. –– Dancers from the Armstrong School of Dance in Ithaca are getting their chance to shine at the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City.

The school is bringing along 22 dancers to join about 500 other performers from around the country in a holiday dance routine. This is the fifth year that dancers from Armstrong have been asked to join the performance.

“In 2008, we were actually contacted by the Spirit of America dance company based out of Texas. They saw us at a dance competition in New York City and they recruited us from there,” said Karen Gorsky, the owner of the Armstrong School. “Once you have a foot in the door, you’re invited back every year.”

Gorsky, following her own career as a dancer, has owned the studio for over 25 years. She has also had three daughters perform in the parade and knows first-hand what it means to her students.

“I’m so excited for these guys,” Gorsky said. “It really puts their small-town training on a big stage and validates all that they’ve done their whole lives. They come to this studio several days a week for 10, 11, 12 years some of them and this brings them together with other dancers from other communities and pulls them all together on the big stage in New York City. It’s a great opportunity.”

The dancers, all of them in high school, put in around 8-9 hours a week on a regular basis, practicing not only for the parade, but for year-round competitions. They’re excited to show off their hard work.

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“We come in on the weekends and work together and practice. It’s a really awesome opportunity we’re going to get to dance with people from all over the U.S. which is really awesome,” said Badyn Milstein-Touesnard, one of the Armstrong dancers who has been with the school for 11 years. “We can learn from them and it’s really nice to meet new people.”

Zoe Zavaski is a veteran of the parade, having gone last year with the group and now returning with her brother.

“My favorite part is walking the parade route. You get to see everybody lined up and excited,” she said. “My brothers in it this year and he’s rooming with me so that’ll be fun.”

The opportunity for these dancers doesn’t come cheap –– Gorsky said when all is said and done, the cost of the trip for each dancer is around $3,000.

“They have been preparing and fundraising for about a year now for this, in order to pay for their six-day trip to New York City where they rehearse with all the other dancers from all over the country,” Gorsky said. “Their families and our dance studio have been fundraising, and we’ve had a lot of area businesses contribute to them, as well as they’ve personally paid out of pocket.”

You can catch the Armstrong Dancers performing at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade on NBC, between 10 a.m. and noon on Nov. 28.

Featured image courtesy of Karen Gorsky. 

Anna Lamb is a reporter for the Ithaca Voice. Questions? Story tips? Contact her at